Questions is a collaboration by Lucy Kempton and Joe Hyam. Poems are based on questions drawn from an agreed starting question and formed by answers, which contain and inspire the next questions. In response to Lucy's first question, Joe kicks off. This follows our earlier work in Compasses, archived here, where Lucy's photographs illustrate Joe's series of 50 sonnets under the title Handbook for Explorers.

Monday 13 April 2009

Are you smiling?

It comes and goes, the smile:
Involuntary, a sign of grace
But forced, becomes a scowl,
Or the fixed grin of a crocodile,
The sneer on a camel's lips.

It's what's inside the head that counts
Yet hard to know, of all that's there, what
To show; and when to check a quiver
At the corner of the mouth, or the light
That builds up in the eyes,
Alive with pleasure or surprise.
But when the gaoler turns his back,
Breaks for lunch, or for a nap,
With no one guarding it,
A memory rises, like the sun in mist.

Yes, I guess I'm smiling now... and yet...
Qui custodiet ipsos custodes?


Lucas said...

I like this poem very much: finds the dynamic between inner and outer words+great ending.

vicki johnson said...

the question that leaps to this mind:
Why guard the memories that prompt smiles??

Unknown said...

During my brief, enforced and inglorious military career, there was often a drill sergeant or the like who would shout in the crudest manner possible: "Wipe that smile of your face!" Why was I smiling? I can't remember. Which doesn't really answer your question, which is a good one.

The Crow said...

Camels do seem to view the world with disdain, don't they? Enjoyed that line for the image it brought to mind.